Alberto told us he was a bit underwhelmed by the Mazda press conference, but on paper the Mazda3 MPS, which will become the MazdaSpeed3 in North America, sounds like bottled excitement.

The FWD MPS is based on the 5-door hatchback version of the Mazda3, rather than the sedan, and it features the same 2.3L turbocharged DISI (direct injection spark ignition) four-cylinder found in the MazdaSpeed6, although detuned to a still respectable 246 hp and 184 ft-lbs. of torque. Thankfully there’s a limited slip diff included in the package. In addition to the MS6’s engine, the MS3 also gets its six-speed standard transmission.

The suspension has been beefed up and is supported by extra bracing to improve chassis rigidity. Mazda estimates the MS3 will enjoy 60 percent more roll stiffness than the standard version. The brakes have also grown, with the vented front discs clocking in at 12.6 inches and the rears 11 inches.

The front end conveys the corporate “Zoom-Zoom” message with flared fenders draping 18-inch wheels, a power dome hood and that gaping lower grille. Out back there’s a large diameter tailpipe and roof spoiler, as well.

Follow the jump for tons more pics and a very details press release from Mazda.

Mazda3 MPS –  Double Dose of Zoom-Zoom

Geneva 2006 sees the global premiere of the flagship of the Mazda3 range, the all-new Mazda3 MPS, which gives sports-minded customers the chance for a double dose of Zoom-Zoom driving fun (the car is called Mazdaspeed3 in North America and Mazdaspeed Axela in Japan). With its compact, lightweight body and maximum power of more than 184 kW/250 PS* generat¬ed by an MZR 2.3L DISI** Turbo engine, Mazda3 MPS is one of the highest perfor¬mance sports compacts with front-wheel drive (FWD) on the road today.

Developed under the key concept of "a dynamic sporty compact that exceeds your expectations," Mazda3 debuted in summer 2003 and has gone on to enjoy enormous popularity among customers worldwide. Selected as the 2004 European Car of the Year runner-up and winner of ca. 60 prestigious awards from coun¬tries around the world, Mazda3 is clearly recog¬nized as one of the leading cars in the compact segment. This remarkable level of recognition boosted sales in Europe, North America and Australia. Since launch, it has become Mazda’s best-selling model globally with over 750,000 units produced in just 30 months and has sustained Mazda's growth during this period.

“Mazda3 MPS, which is making its world debut at the Geneva Motor Show, dramatically reinforces the acclaimed dynamics of the origi¬nal Mazda3 and delivers maximum driving pleasure through outstanding performance and a superior chassis,” said Tatsuo Maeda, Programme Manager for development of the Mazda3 series. “To create this new benchmark, we looked to embody the following three requirements:

  • Driving Fun: Formidable performance from the MZR 2.3L DISI Turbo engine, along with sharply responsive handling achieved by capitalizing on the characteristics of the compact, lightweight body.
  • Ownership Delight: Exterior styling that gives an immediate impression of driving fun, and an interior with a quality feel that exceeds expectations.
  • Everyday, User-Friendly Convenience: An exceptional balance of driving pleasure with everyday functionality and comfort.”

As a result, the flagship of the Mazda3 range features a stylishly sophisticated look combined with performance levels that make it one of the fastest sports compacts with a FWD layout. Mazda3 MPS offers truly exhilarating accelera¬tion from a standing start, superior passing acceleration in the practical speed range and one of the highest top speeds in its class.

Mazda3 MPS is the second vehicle in the Mazda Performance Series, following the Mazda6 MPS launched in Europe two months ago. This high-performance sedan is equipped with the same MZR 2.3L DISI Turbo engine as the Mazda3 MPS, and incorporates a 4WD system and has a GT character with the accent on a feeling of stability. In contrast, the Mazda3 MPS uses a FWD layout to maximize the inherent agile handling characteristics of its lightweight and compact body. In addition, the FWD configuration permitted more affordable pricing, allowing Mazda the opportunity of offering Zoom-Zoom to a wider audience in an extremely fun-to-drive package.

MPS Design DNA – the Harmony of Refinement and Sensuality
Mazda3 MPS styling pursues a look of strength and solidity in a design that conveys the car's unmatched dynamic performance at a glance. Its form is characterized by boldly flared front fenders, and effective use of strong edges on the bonnet and other elements. These combine with the functional forms of the bumpers, spoil¬ers and other parts developed for outstanding aerodynamic performance, to make a radical Zoom-Zoom statement in an FWD sports compact. Overall, Mazda3 MPS’s design is sporty and strong, befitting a high-performance model, without exaggerated styling cues. Instead, the focus is on creating a refined presence, which owners can take pride in. This approach is an important facet of MPS design DNA, also adopted for the Mazda6 MPS.

Exterior Design
The integrated form of the 5-door hatchback of the base model was the starting point for the individualistic statement Mazda3 MPS makes about the Zoom-Zoom spirit. Although it has the athletic form of a high-performance model, it also realizes a refined, supple look calculated to appeal to the aesthetic sensibility of the more mature driver. Its front fenders are 20 mm wider than on the base model to provide clear¬ance for the large tyres and to evoke a well-planted stance. And to forge a uniform identity for the MPS series, two design elements are shared with the Mazda6 MPS: strong press lines flowing back along the bonnet from the upper part of the five-point grille used as the air intake for the intercooler, and the aerody¬namically shaped front bumper and large lower grille serving as the air intake for the radiator. Additionally, the "floating image" angular fog lamps used here for the first time communicate the vehicle's unique personality. An athletic yet elegant side view is created by aerodynamic side skirts and 18-inch, 10-spoke aluminium alloy wheels.

The rear view is characterized by the design of the rear bumper, which suggests stable road hold, the tailpipe with a large diameter (95 mm) and the roof spoiler with integrated high-mounted LED brake lights. These items add up to a tautly defined rear design that is instantly recognizable as the Mazda3 MPS to other drivers who see it pass.

Interior Design
A high quality black sets the tone of the interior, accented by red stitching on the seats, steering wheel, and the six-speed manual transmission shift knob to create a sporty yet refined ambience – the hallmark of a Mazda MPS model. The instrument panel includes a matte black decorative insert panel finished with a hairline treatment to underscore the vehicle’s aggressively modern personality. A leather wrapped shift knob, aluminium pedals and stainless steel scuff plates further contrib¬ute to the sporty, high quality ambience that distinguishes MPS models, while semi-bucket front seats provide firm support to match the uniquely sporty performance of the Mazda3 MPS. Additionally, the instrument panel houses a blackout type speedometer (scaled to 280 km/h) in the centre position and the front seats bear the MPS logo on the seatbacks, a casual reminder that this is the highest performance model in the Mazda3 line up.

Euro Stage IV Emissions Combined with Formidable Power and Agile Handling
Mazda3 MPS is equipped with a 2.3-litre petrol direct injection turbo engine (MZR 2.3L DISI Turbo) that is Euro Stage IV compliant while generating formidable maximum power of more than 184 kW/250 PS at 5,500 rpm* and maximum torque of 380 Nm at 3,000 rpm*. Installed in a lightweight and compact body, the engine propels Mazda3 MPS to a top speed of 250 km/h**, and from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds***. These figures make the Mazda3 MPS one of the most powerful sports compacts with a FWD layout.

To handle this level of performance, torque characteristics are carefully controlled to improve driveability. The body, suspension and brakes are specially tuned as part of the vehicle’s all-round optimization. The result is outstanding performance and agile handling that deliver high levels of driving pleasure. Since this kind of driving can only normally be experienced in a pure sports car, Mazda3 MPS far exceeds driver expectations.

MZR 2.3L DISI Turbo Engine
In addition to delivering a high-performance Zoom-Zoom driving experience, the MZR 2.3L DISI Turbo engine also exhibits good environ¬mental compatibility with low fuel consumption and Euro Stage IV emissions. This powerplant is a direct-injection turbocharged unit devel¬oped by Mazda to achieve three aspects of performance that are difficult to realize with conventional manifold injection engines: good fuel-economy and low exhaust gas emissions, powerful acceleration thanks to the turbocharg¬er, and a full and flat torque curve throughout the rev range for exceptional engine response.

Mazda’s MZR 2.3L DISI Turbo injects fuel into the cylinders at pressures as high as 11.5 MPa, which cools the combustion chambers (internal cooling effect) through latent heat of vaporization, thereby improving the charging efficiency. This can increase torque by up to 10 percent at around 3,000 rpm compared to a conventional manifold injection type turbo engine, making powerful, easy-to-control torque available across a wide range of engine speeds. This high power flat torque curve is attained by the use of a fixed geometry turbo¬charger.

The internal cooling effect within the combus¬tion chamber increases the cylinder charge volume under initial acceleration and hence the exhaust-gas flow, causing a linear increase in rotation speed of the turbocharger's compressor wheel. As a result, the turbocharger provides boost effect soon after the accelerator is pressed– at around 2,500 rpm – assuring excellent response at low to mid-engine speeds.

High-pressure direct injection of fuel into the cylinder also results in an optimized air-fuel mixture forming in the vicinity of the spark plug, reducing the risk of misfire. This allows earlier ignition, making it easy to raise the temperature of the exhaust gas. Moreover, use of a lightweight, fixed geometry turbocharger dramatically reduces the thermal capacity of the exhaust system, minimizing the loss in temperature of exhaust gas. As a result, the catalytic converter reaches its activation temperature faster after the engine is started. These advantages enable Mazda3 MPS to meet Euro Stage IV emissions regulations.

Because the internal cooling effect within the combustion chamber reduces knocking tendencies and boosts fuel economy without sacrificing low-end torque, the MZR 2.3L DISI Turbo engine has a relatively high compres¬sion ratio for a turbo engine of 9.5:1 which contributes to improved fuel economy.

The form and materials used for the respective engine components are optimized to bear the added load and heat of the increased output. The cylinder block and cylinder head are optimally shaped to increase their strength. In addition, cross drilling between the block liners and between the valve bridges on the cylinder head improves cooling performance. All moving parts have been made stronger and more rigid. The crankshaft is made of steel, and the diameter of the crank pins is increased. Connecting rods are also made of steel, and the shape of the rods is optimized. Full-floating pistons are used with increased-diameter pins. The shape of the radiator fan blades has also been optimized, the capacity of the electric fan motor increased and a flap function added to the fan shroud controls the adequate airflow to the radiator. These mea¬sures greatly improve the radiator's cooling performance at all engine speeds.

For Mazda3 MPS, the development team fine-tuned both the engine and exhaust system to produce a sporty sound that enhances driving pleasure. Tuning of the exhaust system focused on sounds in the low frequency range, while tuning of engine sound focused on the mid frequency range produced at high engine speeds to deliver an enjoyably sporty sound. A powerful exhaust note is hit the moment the engine is started, and a pleasurable sound sustained in sync with accelerator pedal input as the car gains speed.

High-level Torque Management
A wide range of optimizations give this high-power, high-torque FWD vehicle greater ease of use with more comfortable driveability and handling. volume  and boost pressure control suppress sudden torque peaks, assuring smooth, linear torque delivery. Additionally, torque characteristics from first through fourth gears are optimized to deliver appro¬priate drive power from take off. Torque control is also linked to the steering angle, and the stiff¬ness of the left and right drive shafts is balanced with the angles optimized to control torque steer. A newly-developed limited slip differ¬ential is also adopted to provide ample torque to the inner wheel during hard cornering for smooth, predictable driving in the curve.

Six-Speed Manual Transmission
The new Mazda3 MPS employs the six-speed manual transmission introduced with the Mazda6 MPS that provides the driver with the pleasure of having full control over the vehicle’s high power, while contributing to a quiet ride and better fuel economy. A compact three-shaft design made it possible to keep the over¬all length the same as for the five-speed manual transmission used in the base model. In addi¬tion, Mazda3 MPS’s six-speed transmission uses wide gear ratios to fully exploit the wide
torque band of the direct-injection turbo¬charged engine. The transmission’s high-ratio sixth gear contributes to a quieter ride and improves fuel economy during high-speed cruising. Triple-cone synchronizers for first through third gears and a double-cone synchronizer for fourth gear assure ample sync capacity to enable a short, clean-action shift stroke and comfortable shift feel.

High Body Rigidity and Specially Tuned Chassis
Like the Mazda3 facelift, the new Mazda3 MPS features a body with greater rigidity than the original model. The MPS version is based on the Mazda3 5-door hatchback, with local rein¬forcements added to realize a body sufficiently stiff and robust to stand up to the extra demands of sporty driving. Suspension and brakes have also been specially tuned for the MPS. These improvements assure a body and chassis capa¬ble of easily handling the extremely high power delivered by the MZR 2.3L DISI Turbo engine.

Body rigidity has been increased by several features, including a reinforced front cowl member that is joined directly to a plate in the top section of the front damper mount, assuring the same rigidity as a car fitted with strut tower bars. This prevents deformation of the front suspension towers and maintains correct suspension geometry. In the lower body, a large closed section member is employed to rein¬force the floor tunnel which improves the torsional rigidity of whole body. At the rear, the gusset introduced at the bottom end of the rear suspension towers restrains the tendency of the towers to displace inwards which maintains the correct suspension geometry in the rear.

Specially Tuned Suspension gives 60 Percent Improvement in Roll Stiffness
Special suspension tuning was conducted to support the high power output of Mazda3 MPS’s engine. Both the MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension have higher coil spring rates and larger diameter stabilizer bars than the Mazda3 face¬lift. Dampers also have a higher damping force on the MPS. Damping force on both jounce and rebound is approximately 6 times better at low piston speed, and about 1.3 times better at moderate piston speed. Combined with the reinforced coil springs and stabilizer bars, this produces 60 percent more roll stiffness than the Mazda3 facelift.

Aerodynamics Engineered for Speeds of up to 250 km/h
With its exceptional performance, Mazda3 MPS demands exceptional aerodynamics. Special attention was paid to reducing drag to enable a top speed of 250 km/h*, and to achieving aerodynamic performance that supports stable straight running, lane changing and overtaking manoeuvres at high speeds. A wide variety of underfloor parts were employed, to achieve the superior aerodynamic performance targets (Cd=0.31).

Focus on Safety – Upgraded Brake System to Match the High Power
The starting point for Mazda3 MPS safety package was to preserve the accurate, predict¬able handling of the original Mazda3. Large diameter 4-wheel disc brakes, ventilated 320 mm discs at front and solid 280 mm discs at rear, a 8 9-inch tandem brake booster and a large 1-inch diameter master cylinder yield powerful and stable braking. Standard equip¬ment includes 4W-ABS, emergency brake assist, and dynamic stability control (DSC), all of which provide active safety for the MPS in a range of driving scenarios. In addition, a rain-sensing wiper system and auto light system are also available (depending on market and grade) to give the driver a clear view of the road and help prevent accidents.

For protection during collision from any direc¬tion, Mazda3 MPS employs the unique Mazda Advanced Impact-energy Distribution and Absorption System to deliver a robust and safe body structure. Inside the cabin, front dual airbags are fitted as standard, along with side and curtain airbags. A collapsible brake pedal and revised steering column structure reduce the risk of injury to the driver's lower legs, while a seat belt reminder system, which confirms whether seatbelts are buckled or not, is also included to support the safety of the front and rear occupants.

Mazda3 MPS Technical Specifications

        MZR DISI 2.3L Turbo
    Engine Type        Inline 4-cylinder, DOHC turbo petrol
    Displacement    cm3    2261
    Bore x stroke    mm    87.5 x 94.0
    Valves        4 per cylinder
    Max. power*    -kW    more than 184 at 5500 rpm
        -PS    more than 250 at 5500 rpm
    Max. torque*    -Nm    380 at 3000 rpm
    Fuel type        Unleaded 98RON
    Emission control system        3-way catalytic converter
    Emissions ranking        Euro Stage IV
    Transmission        6-speed manual
    Powertrain        Front engine, front-wheel drive
    Gear Ratios
    1st        3.538
    2nd        2.238
    3rd        1.535
    4th        1.171
    5th        1.085
    6th        0.853
    Final drive ratio (1st - 4th)        3.941
    Final drive ratio (5th – 6th)        3.350
    Reverse        3.831
    Top Speed**    km/h    250
    0-100 km/h    (sec)    6.1
    50-100 km/h in 3rd gear    (sec)    4.2
    80-120 km/h in 5th gear    (sec)    5.4
    Fuel consumption*
    Combined    l/100 km    9.7
    Suspension and Wheels
    Front suspension        MacPherson independent struts
    Rear suspension        Independent multi-link
    Wheel size        18x7J
    Tyre size        215/45R18 93Y
    Type front        Ventilated discs
    Type rear        Solid discs
    Diameter front    (mm)    320
    Diameter rear    (mm)    280

Mazda3 MPS Dimensions

    Body Type        Monocoque
    Seating capacity        5
    Seat type        2 individual front, 3 bench type rear
    External Dimensions
    Overall length w/license
    plate holder    (mm)    4435
    Overall width    (mm)    1765
    Overall height    (mm)    1465
    Wheelbase    (mm)    2640
    Front tread    (mm)    1530
    Rear tread    (mm)    1515

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